The younger flopsy-duckit, who just turned four, has a friend called Phineas, which is not his real name, but which conveys something of the flavor of his actual name. Phineas has cascading blond hair, a mischievous grin, and often wears an AC/DC T-shirt.
For months I have been hearing about Phineas: the younger flopsy-duckit can’t wait to get to preschool because she wants to see Phineas; Phineas is her best friend; she loves Phineas. I’ve witnessed the joy with which they bashfully greet each other when we arrive at preschool.
On one of these occasions, as the younger flopsy-duckit and Phineas settled down to play, another little girl marched up to the teacher and pointed accusingly at the happy twosome:
“They’re sitting together! That’s not allowed!” she announced, in a tone that, I must say, I found to be rather priggish.
I expected the teacher to laughingly reply, “of course they can sit together!” but she said, instead,
“Oh, it’s all right at the moment, Addison, it’s only at circle time that they have to be separated.”
Something about the word “separated” got my hackles up.
“Why do they have to be separated at circle time?” I enquired, with just the slightest of edges in my voice.
“Oh, they won’t listen to anything if they are sitting together,” the teacher explained. “All they do is talk to each other, so we have to separate them.”
Yesterday, at a birthday party in our local park for another classmate, I finally met Phineas’s mother. She was Australian (of course she was! That AC/DC T-shirt!) with a warm grin, and her face lit up when I introduced myself as the younger flopsy-duckit’s mother.
She explained that Phineas talks about the younger flopsy-duckit all the time:
“He says he has a crush on her and that he’s going to marry her, and that at their wedding she will wear make-up…” She paused. “Because, obviously,” she added, mischievously, “that’s just what you do at weddings.”
Soon it was time for lunch in the clubhouse. But our two charges had no appetite for food. No sooner had they sat down and nibbled indifferently at their pizza, then the two of them ducked out of the party room. Phineas’s Mum and I reluctantly followed them out to chaperone (there was a pond right outside you see, a pond that was being drained and thus was filled with mud, making it all the more alluring to intrepid four-year-olds) I, for one, feeling distinctly grumpy that I had barely had a chance to have a mouthful of the Chinese chicken salad that our hosts had kindly provided for the grown-ups. 
Phineas and the younger-flopsy-duckit ran, giggling, across a little bridge past the pond and into the reeds. Phineas’s Mum and I stood on the other side of the pond. We couldn’t really see them but could hear muffled giggles emanating from the reeds. We vainly called to them to come back and join the party, but to no avail until the balloon man arrived, and we lured them back with the promise of marvelous inflatable creations.
“What kind of thing would you like?” asked the balloon man. The younger flopsy-duckit was silent.
“Would you like a flower … or a bracelet …. I can make a fairy bracelet … a princess bracelet?”
The younger flopsy duckit glanced at Phineas, who already had a blue balloon sword.
“I want a blue sword,” she said.
The younger flopsy-duckit, it turned out, was considerably more adept than Phineas at handling a sword, no doubt due to the tutelage of her elder brother (Phineas also had an older sibling, a sister, which perhaps explained his own precocious fluency in the language of romantic love).
“Do you know the difference between whacking and charging?” she enquired.
Phineas did not.
He was suitably impressed as she demonstrated, using a trash-can as her opponent; Phineas’s own attempts to imitate her thrusting and parrying resulted, unfortunately, in a burst sword.
When we were walking home from the party, I informed the younger flopsy-duckit that Phineas wanted to marry her. She scrunched up her face and crossed her eyes.
“No woman-kissing,” she declared emphatically.
“No woman-dancing,” she added, shaking her head.
“That’s womanish,” she stated firmly, in the most disgusted of tones, as if those would be her final words on the subject.
A couple of minutes later, though …
“I suppose I could marry him,” she mused. “I could decide when I’m a grown-up.”
Right, I said. There’s no rush.
 Chinese chicken salad is such an LA thing. I feel like it’s on almost every menu. According to Wikipedia, it’s a Santa Monica invention: quoting from Akasha Richmond’s book, Hollywood Dish, the entry on the dish’s history states that in the 1960s it “was made popular at Madame Wu’s in Santa Monica. Cary Grant asked her to put it on the menu after eating it at another restaurant.”